published Monday, August 17th, 2009

Benton Place about to boom

By Karen Phillips, Correspondent

RINGGOLD, Ga. -- Except for an amphitheater and expansion of some existing buildings, the landscape at Benton Place Campus in Catoosa County is not much different today than it was four years ago.

Yet a lot has happened in those four years on two separate and sometimes competing projects: a YMCA and a satellite campus for Dalton State and Northwestern Technical College.

Plans initially called for the YMCA to get 17.3 acres, but in 2005, Catoosa County commissioners allocated land for a joint satellite campus.

Since then the North Georgia Y has experienced a series of challenges and setbacks. Meanwhile, the land designated for the colleges remains an empty stretch of grass.

However, at least one of the colleges involved remains in the mix, although there is no timetable in place.

"As far as we are concerned, we are still on the Board of Regents' list to develop a center jointly in Catoosa County," said Dr. John Schwenn, president of Dalton State College.

And what's now called Georgia Northwestern Technical College isn't involved with Benton Place, spokeswoman Amber Jordan said.

Catoosa Commission Chairman Keith Greene said plans call for a campus at Dietz and Cloud Springs roads in Fort Oglethorpe.

Ms. Jordan said planners hope to get funding for the 65,000-square-foot project in the 2010 session of the Georgia General Assembly.

"The total cost for the project is $19.6 million, $3 million of which we received this year for planning. We are hopeful the remaining balance will be funded in the upcoming legislative session," she said.

Ms. Jordan said that GNTC President Dr. Craig McDaniel went to Atlanta July 22 for a capital outlay presentation and hopes to begin bidding around November, 2010.

"Our focus for the Catoosa County campus will be on planning programs that will supply the auto manufacturing industry with skilled workers," Ms. Jordan said. "But we also have the opportunity to look at needs in the energy generation industry, construction and service industries."

With space opening up at Benton Place, Mr. Greene said YMCA officials came before commissioners last month with a plan for locating next to the Senior Center.

"We're happy to be working with the Y again," Mr. Greene said. "One thing the commission always heard around the community was, 'When are we getting a Y?'"

Plans call for the YMCA to complete the first phase April, 2010, and initially to focus on the senior population.

"If we can get the Y working with them first and eventually expand from there, it will be a great thing for the community," Mr. Greene said.

He said building the YMCA and possibly a Dalton State satellite campus most likely will use all the remaining land at Benton Place.

Karen Phillips is based in Catoosa County. Contact her at karenhphillips@yahoo.com

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